The international campaign to boycott Israeli products manufactured in West Bank settlements has claimed one more casualty. Scarlett Johansson has parted ways with the international charity Oxfam because of a dispute over a “fundamental difference of opinion” concerning her work for the Israeli company SodaStream.
The reason for the dispute is the fact that SodaStream’s principal manufacturing plant is in the industrial park of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, a community of approximately 40,000 people located about seven miles east of Jerusalem in the West Bank.
Oxfam supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. It calls for the boycott of Israeli products, Israeli-held sporting, cultural and academic events, and divestment of holdings in Israeli companies as long as Israel continues to “occupy” Palestinian territory.
The BDS movement is quite successful. It has swayed many star artists from performing in Israel; it has won over many retail outlets, inducing them to boycott Israeli products; it has penetrated academic institutions— like the 5,000-member American Studies Association, which forbids interactions with Israeli scientists and scholars; it has even gone as far as having Christian religious institutions exploit their pulpit to advocate BDS’s ideology.
The BDS movement was able to convince many around the world that Israeli settlements beyond the (green) 1948 ceasefire line are illegal. But its assertions regarding the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank are simply incorrect.
Israel conquered the West bank in a defensive war. International law, spelled out by the charter of the League of Nations, states that the status of territories occupied in consequence of a defensive war shall remain in dispute as long as there is no peace agreement between the warring parties. Accordingly, the conquered territory is disputed rather than occupied. And although Israel’s control over the West Bank makes peace with the Palestinians more challenging, it is, nonetheless, legal.
What’s more, international law states that a territory conquered in a defensive war may be used to maintain security in the absence of a peace treaty. The conquering party may resettle it if it had been driven out of the area (like East Jerusalem, Hebron, Gush Etzion) in an earlier war (1947-8) and the rest of the west bank during the Roman revolt in 135 CE. Besides, UN Resolution 242 states clearly that in the absence of peace between Israel and the Arabs, Israel may develop and settle any public unoccupied land.
This public unoccupied land was never owned by a Muslim Palestinian state, since no Muslim Palestinian state had ever existed. Four hundred years prior to the end of World War I in 1917 this land was occupied and owned by the Ottoman empire; then between 1917-1948 it was controlled by the British, and following the 1948 war between Israel and the Arab states, the kingdom of Jordan occupied — and, I must say, illegally absorbed — the same territory.
An Arab Palestinian authority has never owned public land in Judea and Samaria, (a.k.a. the West Bank) or the Gaza strip. The Jews were the only legitimate local resident owners before the Roman Empire’s conquest of the land. After the Romans drove the Jews out of Israel and renamed the territory, the only owners were foreign imperialists who took control of Palestine after defeating a former imperialist occupier.
Public unoccupied land in Judea and Samaria had never been in possession of a Palestinian Arab authority or government. Israel captured the land from its illegal possessor, the Jordanian Hashemite kingdom, in a defensive war.
In the absence of peace between Israel and any Palestinian authority, it has been Israel’s legally justified right to maintain its sovereignty over these territories, develop and settle them, as long as the Israeli government has not deported or displaced the original residents. Accordingly, Palestinian Arabs were able to challenge the Israeli government concerning land use and ownership and that several of these challenges were successful. Consequently, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Israeli government to reverse position and hand the land over to its rightful owners whenever it found such land grab illegal or unjust.
It is important to note that Palestinians and many other Arabs consider Israel proper to be an occupied territory. A UN resolution that partitioned the land in 1947 into a two-state solution was rejected by the Arabs, and the resulting war ended similarly to the 1967 Six-Day-War. Israel captured more territory in consequence of a defensive war. That war of independence did not end up in a peace treaty. It was concluded in a ceasefire and a demarcated ceasefire (green) line, serving as a temporary border between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Israel went ahead and annexed the conquered territory, which became an integral part of the Jewish State. Although it had been designated by the UN partition plan as part of a Palestinian State, Israel’s captured territory was recognized by the rest of the world, with the exception of the Arab states, as an integral part of Israel.
If Jewish settlements established over territory captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day-War are considered illegal, then one could extrapolate the same reasoning to proclaim illegality for the entire State of Israel. History tells us that Israel was established in the aftermath of a defensive war over territories the Arabs claim to be Islamic.
And similarly, territories captured in the aftermath of wars like--
· Northern Ireland—captured, occupied and annexed by the British
· Territories belonging to Poland and Romania—captured, occupied and annexed by the Russians
· Kurdistan—Occupied and annexed by Turkey and Iraq
· Catalonia—Occupied and annexed by Spain
· German territories before WWII—occupied and annexed by France and Poland
· Hungarian territories (Transylvania)—occupied and annexed by Romania
· Tibet—occupied and annexed by China
· The whole of the US—captured by force from the native Americans and settled by the White Americans
· Texas—Captured from Mexico
—ought to be classified by BDS to as illegal and should be boycotted.
Had Oxfam and BDS been consistent in following their erroneous interpretation of international law they should have boycotted all of the above occupiers. By unjustifiably singling out Israel they have exposed their anti-Semitic tendencies.
Scarlett Johansson was right to part ways with this hypocritical organization. She has not done it to gain extra cash as some Israel-bashers claim. She went with her heart. She understood that SodaStream was actually one of the largest employers of Palestinians whose territory, according to the World Bank, is bloated with 22% unemployment rate. She understood that the SodaStream plant provided Palestinians with compensation and treatment equal to what SodaStream provided Jewish employees, and any economic boycott that would force closing of the plant or downsize its operations would hurt Palestinians more than it would hurt Israel.
Scarlett Johansson, I applaud you. You have done the right thing.
Dr. Avi Perry, a talk show host at Paltalk News Network (PNN), is the author of "Fundamentals of Voice Quality Engineering in Wireless Networks," and more recently, "72 Virgins," a thriller about the covert war on Islamic terror. He was Vice President at NMS Communications, a Bell Laboratories - distinguished staff member and manager, as well as a delegate of the US and Lucent Technologies to the ITU—the UN International Standards body in Geneva, a professor at Northwestern University and an Intelligence expert for the Israeli Government. He may be reached through his web site www.aviperry.org